Sen. Rand Paul made trips to several Eastern Kentucky communities this week to meet with local leaders to discuss issues and successes within the respective communities.
One such stop was at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Airport in Perry County. Community leaders, including Hazard City Mayor Donald “Happy” Mobelini and Betsy Clemons, the executive director of the Hazard-Perry County Chamber of Commerce, were in attendance
Paul asked what the biggest issue the community was facing and was met with the general consensus that the infrastructure of the City of Hazard’s water system and it’ effect on the rest of the county, to which the system mostly provides water, has been the county’s greatest obstacle.
The infrastructure of the water system in the city has not been updated since its installation in the 1950s but has had several additions that provide water to most of Perry County, according to Mobelini.
“We’ve expanded 36 miles in one direction and 38 miles in the other,” said Mobelini, “We’ve only got two or three pockets that don’t have city water and each time we would get a grant to extend the lines, but what we could never get a grant for is to replace the old lines in the city.”
Mobelini added that the City of Buckhorn has a separate water system and that there is not enough manpower in the area to provide upkeep to the system.
“As a country we have a lot of infrastructure needs and unfortunately we, in Washington, spend about a trillion dollars more than we bring in so we already don’t do a very good job of it,” said Paul. He added that he believes legislators in Washington are not using funds in ways that benefit communities.
“We have to set priorities, so I’m more than happy to advocate for things and help Kentucky but what we have to do is, as people, no matter what party we’re from, we need to come together and say we shouldn’t spend it on $10 million studying the male frog in Panama to see whether or not it makes a different mating call in the city versus the county,” he said. “We spent a half a million dollars studying whether or not if people take selfies of themselves while smiling whether it leads to happiness. This stuff has been going on for 40 or 50 years, crazy stuff. So there’s money but I think we, as a people, need to tell our representatives, or whoever, we need to tell them to quit wasting it somewhere and start putting it in to things that we really need and that we can agree too. Probably most people would agree with water system needs, I mean, you can’t live without water.”
Community leaders at the roundtable session also had good news to share with the senator.
Clemmons said that Dajcor Aluminum is still planning to locate in the Coal Fields Industrial Park in Chavies and that officials are working on obtaining a grant to install natural gas at the site in order to meet Dajcor’s production needs.
“They hope to be in operation by the middle of February with 250-300 jobs,” said Clemons. “We’re hoping Dajcor being here will attract more businesses.”
She added that Sykes, a long-time employer in the community, has a new partnership with Intuit that reportedly will provide better paying jobs.
“They’re going to be paying a lot better wages than what was done before and they also want to put a hub downtown so they can have face to face meetings with people,” Clemons said.
Paul said that he will do what he can to advocate for and provide assistance to each of the community leaders who gathered at the roundtable session.
Mobelini said that the people of Perry County are doing what they can to improve the community and the economy after the decline of the coal industry.
“We have a bad economy with coal and stuff and it’s like you know we pray that it comes back but it’s almost like everyone is like, ‘Okay, what else can we do until this comes back?’ I think everyone is sort of buying into the fact that we’ve decided to live here so let’s make it better. “We’re all in this same team together, the entire county, and that’s one thing that I think is really good about our area right now.”